And the Oscar Goes to… Online Advertisers

When an event like the Academy Awards approaches, Internet marketers are sure to take notice — and action. Now that event producers have confirmed the show will go on this year in spite of the war, ad planning is once again in full swing. Call it an attempt at communal distraction — or naive optimism that the war will go quickly and smoothly — but for many advertisers it’s business as usual these days, and many eyes are turned toward this Sunday’s festivities.

In Internet advertising, as in other media, the opportunity to associate one’s product or service with a famed and beloved affair, to attract attention and increase exposure, is welcomed with open arms. So what better occasion to start a new campaign, send out a themed e-newsletter, or create enticing affair-appropriate creative than right before the upcoming Oscars?

Around this same time last year, I wrote about some of the online ad campaigns that ran in conjunction with and immediately after the big event, citing the different methods advertisers came up with to jump on the awards-show bandwagon. Advertisers such as Cadillac and adiamondisforever.com came up with some pretty clever ways to grab glamour-hungry customers, increase their product sales, and enhance their brand image online. One common thread running throughout every Oscar-related campaign I saw was you don’t have to be affiliated with the show, or even have a product that’s immediately related, to get yourself a piece of the Oscar-hype pie.

This year, the same adage holds true. Advertisers are getting more creative than ever when it comes to attracting the Oscar-loving crowd. Instead of simply playing off the overall excitement, they’re targeting audiences using the rituals they’re sure to perform the night of the show.

Complete with score cards, movie themes, mini-Oscar statues, and the occasional film star look-alike, Oscar parties have become almost as anticipated and legendary as annual Halloween bashes and Super Bowl Sunday shindigs. And they offer plenty of opportunity for advertiser self-promotion. With some ingenuity and the right amount of wit, nearly any product can be incorporated into the evening’s festivities, and advertisers can truly take advantage of this “golden” marketing opportunity.

Last week I received an HTML email from Epicurious promoting some of the site’s retail partners, including online specialty food retailer iGourmet.com. The email was titled “Oscar treats, organic beef, fresh morels, & more.” In it iGourmet flaunted an Oscar special: The Awards Night Party Pack.

What defines this party pack as an awards-night special? Click through to the company’s site and you’ll see a truly imaginative approach to getting involved with the event. In a special section of its site, this retailer posted a breakdown of the five films up for Best Picture, each with a little embellishment — specific gourmet foods relating to the movies’ themes or respective time periods have been incorporated into their plotlines. It’s the mélange of these foods that constitutes this distinctive Oscar-night package.

This particular partnership between Epicurious and iGourmet stands to produce mutually beneficial results. By mentioning the Oscars in its subject line, Epicurious increases its chances of garnering an impressive email open rate, while iGourmet happily sells a miscellany of gourmet products to food-loving, ceremony-addicted couch potatoes.

If associating your client’s product with Oscar night isn’t for you, there are plenty of other opportunities from which to choose. You’re sure to encounter many of them while prowling the Net in these last few days before the show. Site section sponsorships promise to be big again this year, as does employing trivia-related creative (quizzing Internet users about past award winners or including classic Oscar trivia in banners). Contests in this vein are always a popular option as well.

Cadillac must have had considerable success last year, as it’s once again advertising on Oscar.com, the event’s official site. The automaker’s new campaign includes Point·Roll-type banner ads with messages that play off the prestige and glory of the event. Drop-down content sections include “Style Inside & Out” and “The Winning Performance.” These banners link to an advertorial page within the Oscar.com site, presumably in an attempt to further pre-qualify consumers (or weed out those who aren’t serious car buyers) before they click through to the advertiser’s actual site. Of course Cadillac as a product is no more related to the awards than any other luxury car, but interlacing ad creative with familiar event cues is all that’s needed to give the association some credibility.

Events such as the Academy Awards are exciting in and of themselves, but the aspect that truly interests me is the creativity they coax out of advertisers. Online, the Oscars beget some of the smartest campaigns you’ll see all year. Not a bad time to amass a few ideas for next year’s awards show season.

Many of you noticed ClickZ newsletters changed recently. Executive Editor Rebecca Lieb gives you a quick rundown.

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